Lecture 10 Committees in Congress

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Published on December 7, 2007

Author: craig

Source: authorstream.com

Committees in Congress:  Committees in Congress GOV E-1351 Delegation in Congress:  Delegation in Congress Again, Congress is self-organized Collective action problems Legislative Activity and Oversight are costly Policymaking requires expertise Different constituencies seek representation on different issues Gatekeeping – Why spend time on bad ideas? What is a Committee?:  What is a Committee? Subset of one or both chambers with a specified task Legislative tasks Drafting Coordination Procedural Tasks (House Rules) Oversight tasks Logistical Tasks Morphology of Committees:  Morphology of Committees Committee of the Whole:  Committee of the Whole Fictional “committee” to which every member of the House belongs (there is no analogue in the Senate) Quorum in the CoW is 100 members (following Reed’s Rules of 1888) Rules are less formal than those for the House (and not subject to Constitutional restrictions) The CoW is not the HoR:  The CoW is not the HoR All business conducted in the CoW must be ratified by the full House All amendments approved by the CoW must be revoted upon in the full House This implies that amendments that are successful in the CoW might fail in the full House The Speaker generally does not preside over the CoW Standing Committees:  Standing Committees Committees that persist from Congress to Congress Typically legislative in nature (govern substantive business in a jurisdiction) Jurisdictions established by precedent, Speaker (& Parliamentarian’s) judgments, (Note: Standing committees in Senate do not work so much from referrals, except Judiciary and Foreign Relations) Memberships relatively stable over time The Costs and Benefits of Standing:  The Costs and Benefits of Standing Oversight responsibilities Budgetary role (historically) Authorization role (in House) Establishment of Seniority Regularity of Jurisdiction promotes campaign contributions from organized interests, development of expertise Majority Party overrepresented (except on Ethics Committees) Select (or “Special”) Committees:  Select (or “Special”) Committees More Narrowly Focused Fewer membership restrictions Generally fewer legislative prerogatives Often investigative/topical in nature Intelligence Indian Affairs Ervin Committee (Watergate) Kefauver Committee (Organized Crime) Joint Committees:  Joint Committees Inter-Chamber committees Economic - informational Taxation - informational Library – coordination (runs Library of Congress) Printing (runs GPO) Atomic Energy (1947-1979) -- legislative Conference Committees:  Conference Committees Joint Ad Hoc committees appointed to negotiate compromise between chambers after each passed a different version of the same bill House members are appointed by the Speaker In many ways, this is where the real decisions are made on controversial legislation Conference Committees:  Conference Committees House Passes a bill and Senate passes a similar bill (regardless of order) One chamber requests a conference, other chamber agrees (or not) Committee approves a report by “majority of each delegation” rule Report sent back to chamber that requested conference If approved, committee is dissolved If second chamber also approves, then bill is sent to President Power of the Conference:  Power of the Conference Conference reports are essentially unamendable (why?) This give conference committee great power Conference committee generally consists of members in favor of appropriate chamber’s version of the bill (but not always) Technically, conference must stay within scope of original bills Tangent: Resolving Disagreement:  Tangent: Resolving Disagreement Conference committees are not Constitutionally prescribed Without conference, chambers can send a bill “back and forth,” usually no more than 2 times (but this is simply a norm) Usually done when disagreement is technical in nature The History of Committees:  The History of Committees Initially, Cabinet served as “committee chairs” (1st-3rd Congresses) Ways and Means established in House in 4th Congress Ways and Means now considers revenue measures, then considered all financial legislation (incl. banking) Select Committees initially important, decline from 150 in 1813 to <25 in 1850s Standing Committees increase to ~50 in 1920s Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 Established Modern System The Early Senate:  The Early Senate Prior to 1816, Senate had no standing committees, then suddenly formed 12 Early Senates essentially “waited on” the House to initiate legislation Partly due to British System (House of Commons initiates legislation) But, also remember that Confederation Congress was unicameral The LRA of 1946:  The LRA of 1946 Reduced standing committees (from 33->15 for House) and 48->19 for Senate) Codified jurisdictions, expended committee and congressional support systems Former committees mostly became subcommittees within new committees, establishing more hierarchy within system The LRA of 1970:  The LRA of 1970 Established formal requirements for committees: Required formal rules for each committee Opened hearings to public Seniority starts to play smaller role in chair determination The Republican Revolution of 1995 (In Committee Structure):  The Republican Revolution of 1995 (In Committee Structure) Subcommittee Government made legislative activity more fractured “Targetable” by specialized interests The GOP consolidated subcommittees (115->84), reorganized jurisdictions Cut staff by 1/3rd Banned proxy voting in committees Term limits on committee chairs (later partially removed) 3/5ths majority vote required for tax increases Subcommittee Bill of Rights:  Subcommittee Bill of Rights The Democratic Caucus passed several reforms in the early 1970s that increased the power of subcommittees Restriction on # of subcommittees that a member could chair Subcommittees granted power over staffs Subcommittee chairs selected by Democratic committee members Referrals to subcommittee based on rules Required most committees to have subcommittees Era of subcommittee government (1970s-90s) Subcommittees, Policy and Access :  Subcommittees, Policy and Access Subcommittees first appeared in the mid-1880s Origin: appropriations decentralization First occurred in House, then followed soon thereafter in Senate (1890s) Prior to 1880s, committees delegated investigative tasks to members Membership on Committees:  Membership on Committees Formally: membership is determined by the chamber as a whole From 1789 until 1910, Speaker appointed committees in the House 1910: Revolt Against Speaker Cannon Republicans: Committee on Committees (originally favoring members from Republican states) Democrats: Ways & Means Committee made appointments until 1970s, now have a Committee On Committees Slide23:  Senate: Committees elected by ballot until 1845 Party caucuses nominate lists for membership now Johnson Rule: Good assignments could had to be “spread around” (no member could have a second good assignment until each member of his or her party had one as well) Membership and Reelection:  Membership and Reelection House committees typically control purse strings to varying degrees (not as much now as in the past) Control of regulatory authority resides largely in appropriate standing committees Oversight, annual reports, subpoena powers Groups seek visibility in hearings Appropriations and Ways & Means especially important for “earmarks,” tax provisions, etc. Narrow Committees imply targeted donations for members (e.g., D.C., Post Office, Merchant Marine & Fisheries) Hierarchy of Committees (81st-102nd C.):  Hierarchy of Committees (81st-102nd C.) Seniority:  Seniority In the 1910s, control of committee chairs slipped out of party hands (revolt against Cannon) and became based on seniority – terms served on committee Relaxed somewhat in 1974 (secret ballot in Caucus confirming chairs) – starting in 1950s, southern Democrats had concentrated power due to incumbency advantage and 1-party status in South Assignment in Reality:  Assignment in Reality The process of assignment: members in each party request assignments at the beginning of each Congress Property rights: once on, you can stay Strategic calculation: seniority * prestige Restrictions on positions held play a large role in the calculation (# chairs, etc) Note that the Senate has more chairs per member, assignment is less contested The GOP and the 107th Congress:  The GOP and the 107th Congress In the 104th – 106th Congresses, Republicans changed House rules to mandate a 3-term limit for committee chairs In 107th Congress, Speaker Hastert ruled that the rule applied to particular positions, meaning that chairs could be “rotated” (also, the Rules committee was granted an exception!) Raw Committee Politics, Part I:  Raw Committee Politics, Part I Revolt against Speaker Cannon largely precipitated by “abuse” of Speaker’s power to appoint chairs. Appointed a new member of the Appropriations Committee as chair in 1905 Cannon used the power to punish members. Denied the request of Rep. George W. Norris (R, NE), to be named to a delegation to attend the funeral of a Member who had beena personal friend of Norris Norris was a “progressive” – Cannon wasn’t. Revolt precipitated seniority system, decline of Speaker, rise of Rules Committee, dominance of Southern Democrats from 1930s->1960s Raw Committee Politics, Part II:  Raw Committee Politics, Part II 106th Congress: “A member of a standing committee may not serve as chairman of the same standing committee, or of the same subcommittee of a standing committee, during more than three consecutive Congresses…” Raw Committee Politics, Part II:  Raw Committee Politics, Part II 108th Congress: “Except in the case of the Committee on Rules, a member of a standing committee may not serve as chairman of the same standing committee, or of the same subcommittee of a standing committee, during more than three consecutive Congresses …”

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